An analysis examining the inventory of Nassau County’s fleet of vehicles and motorized equipment by outgoing county Comptroller Howard Weitzman’s Office has discovered that 192 are missing, including several recent-model super-duty pickup trucks, SUVs, cars and vans.
The revelation, detailed in a Dec. 23 internal report sent from Weitzman’s office to Raymond Ribeiro, the commissioner of the county Department of Public Works (DPW), follows an inventory count conducted during the summer and into the fall of this year. It was also sent to John Kelly, director of fleet management for Nassau’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
The count had three main objectives, says the report, which was obtained by the Press: to verify the physical existence of all county vehicles and motorized equipment listed in its inventories, ensure the accuracy of the records and reconcile the DPW Fleet Management inventory records with the county’s fixed asset ledgers. It successfully located, identified and verified the existence of 1,307 vehicles and motorized equipment reported in 32 county departments, excluding Nassau County Police Department vehicles. It also discovered, however, that the inventories didn’t add up.
The comptroller’s report found “significant discrepancies” between the countywide inventories maintained by DPW, which listed 1,486 records, and the county’s asset ledger, which had 1,678.
“As of the date of this memorandum, our office has not been able to locate or verify the existence of 192 vehicles and motorized equipment appearing on the DPW Fleet inventory,” reads the analysis. “We visited the same DPW and Parks locations repeatedly in the hopes of observing the missing vehicles, but after numerous visits to these locations, we could not confirm the existence of these vehicles,” it continues.
The unaccounted-for vehicles include, according to the comptroller’s report, among others: several 2008 Ford Rangers, which typically carry a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $14,500 to $24,350; a monster 2008 Ford F450 Crew, with an MSRP between $40,000 and $50,000; 2001 BMW 530i, MSRP about $40,000; two Dodge Grand Caravans, which start around $22,000 to $28,000 MSRP; and a 2008 Ford Falcon, an Australian import which features a supercharged V-8 engine on some models.
Also absent: Several 2007, 2006 and 2005 Ford Rangers, Ford E350s, E250s and E150s; a 2007 Ford F250; 2005 Ford Taurus, 2005 Honda Civic; 2004 Chevrolet Impala; two 2003 Chevrolet S10s; and earlier-model vehicles, including a 1999 Oldsmobile Intrigue, 1996 Jeep Cherokee, 1995 Toyota Tacoma, 1992 Ford Aerostar and 2001 Ford Crown Victoria, among many others.
Missing equipment includes heavy-duty construction machinery, such as ride-along backhoes, lawnmowers, wood chippers, tractors and bulldozers.
During the inventory, the comptroller’s office also learned that two county vehicles “were regularly parked in neighborhoods overnight and over weekends,” despite the vehicles not being designated as take-home vehicles by DPW.
“If it is determined that the employees had no authority to take home these vehicles, then DPW and Parks should take appropriate action,” charges the report.
The inventory also discovered other abnormalities within the county’s fleet records. Weitzman’s office found 13 vehicles in six departments that didn’t appear on a DPW inventory report provided to the office. Among the missing, 90 vehicles, including trailers and mower tractors, were assigned to the county Department of Parks, Recreation and Museums, reads the report, yet parks personnel claimed the vehicles were returned to DPW. Additionally, 256 golf carts purchased in the 1990s appear on county inventory records that Parks personnel say the county no longer has, according to the analysis.
“If these vehicles cannot be located, their disposal should be investigated to ensure it was proper…” the report orders.
While some of the AWOL vehicles could perhaps be attributed to poor recordkeeping, the disappearance of many newer models—including a 2008 Ford Escape SUV, last registered to the county executive’s office (with an MSRP just under $30,000)—suggest other explanations.
Ribeiro did not return a request for comment for this story, nor did outgoing Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, who appointed him. Kelly did not return a call seeking comment for this story, either.
Weitzman’s recent findings come in the wake of a July 2009 limited review from the office, which discovered it was almost impossible to tell who pumps gas into county vehicles, or what vehicles receive the fuel, due to lax fuel monitoring system.
That review covered Jan. 1, 2007 through June 30, 2008 and discovered “unusual activity” taking place, including: one driver pumping over 17,000 gallons of fuel over the course of a year; 11 instances where vehicle gas cards were used from vehicles no longer in the county’s fleet inventory; two different driver fuel cards used to dispense 388 gallons of fuel, even though the employees who had been issued the cards had retired years earlier; 30 instances where vehicle gas cards that had been invalidated by the county were used; and a case where a maintenance card and driver card were used three times within seven minutes to pump more than 120 gallons of gas.
“The county has to be more prudent and tighten controls when it comes to all aspects of the county vehicle fleet,” Weitzman declared at the time. “No one should tolerate the possibility of wasted tax dollars, especially in these tough economic times.”